Kristina Williams is knocking on the door of a Bellator women’s flyweight title opportunity. Standing in front of her, this Friday night, is an undefeated fighter with, seemingly, the same opportunity in front of her.
Williams will face Juliana Velasquez at Bellator 224 in what could very well be a No. 1 contender fight for the Bellator women’s flyweight division. The event will take place at WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma and will air on the Paramount Network. The women’s 125-pound matchup will take place on the main card.
It has been a fast-paced start to Williams’ MMA career. “Warhorse” made her Bellator, and professional MMA debut in October 2017 when she took on Heather Hardy at Bellator 185. Williams put on an incredible striking clinic on the world champion boxer, bloodying and breaking the nose of her opponent leading to a second-round doctor’s stoppage TKO victory. It was a win that put Williams on the map and helped catapult her quick rise up the women’s flyweight ranks.
“It has definitely moved a lot faster than what I expected,” Williams told MyMMANews.com. “After that fight, I definitely wasn’t expecting all of that to come out of that fight with Heather. It’s been moving pretty fast.”
Following the win over Hardy, Williams would take on a veteran in Emily Ducote at Bellator 195 and picked up a hard-fought split decision. While those wins over Hardy and Ducote taught Williams a lot and helped her gain much needed experience in the cage, it was her next fight that taught her the most.
The 29-year-old would face former UFC title challenger Valerie Letourneau in June 2018 at Bellator 201. Letourneau would drop Williams early in the fight and have her in a lot of trouble. Williams would dig deep and battle back to make the fight very competitive, although she ultimately dropped a unanimous decision. With change and evolution happening constantly in the sport of mixed martial arts, the road to that fight — along with the fight itself — has been a defining time in the career of Kristina Williams.
“Just the fact that I fought Valerie and didn’t give up at all — I kept pushing forward — is something that I’m really proud of,” Williams explained. “That’s what defines me as a fighter: no matter how bad it gets, I’m not giving up. I’m going to give it everything that I have. Bouncing back from that, I learned that I need to blend my striking and my jiu-jitsu, my overall MMA game, the wrestling and all of that. I started working at Genesis (BJJ in River Oaks, Texas) and with other female fighters four to five weeks before that fight, so there was a lot of change happening. I think that I’ve evolved so much since then and have learned so much.”
The next challenge for Williams could be her toughest to date in the undefeated Juliana Velasquez. With a nickname like “Warhorse”, Williams is a fighter who thrives on tough tasks and challenges. Taking on a former Brazilian judo team member, and one of the top 125-pounders in Bellator MMA is something she is really looking forward to.
“I’m really excited to have her as an opponent,” Williams said. “I always like fight people who challenge me a lot, so I think that makes for a great fight. I think that we’re going to have a really aggressive fight. She’s an aggressive fighter, I’m an aggressive fighter so I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
To prepare for a pressure fighter like Velasquez, Williams has upped her preparation in a variety of ways. Williams has always displayed a superior striking game and that will not change on Friday night. However, some new elements to her game in and out of the cage could be the difference maker, according to Williams, in this pivotal women’s flyweight showdown.
“I’ve definitely upped my strength and conditioning to make me faster and stronger,” Williams said. “I’ve really been working on blending everything, my ground and my striking blending really well together, my clinch work. I think that’s going to the tell, what everyone will notice in this fight.”
One thing Williams won’t do is try to predict the future. She is not one to call out a finishing sequence or the round it will happen. All Williams can do is get in the cage, compete and make the most out of any opportunities to come her way, whether it be for one second, or 15 minutes.
“I would definitely like to see a finish if I had my perfect fight,” Williams stated. “I think it will be a really fun battle, for sure.”
With a win, many MMA fans believe that Williams would be more than deserving to challenge Ilima-Lei Macfarlane for the Bellator women’s flyweight title. There, of course, is a lack of clarity at the top of the division. At Bellator 220, Macfarlane took on Veta Arteaga in what ended up being her toughest challenge to date. Arteaga was performing quite well in the contest before suffering a nasty gash on her forehead, which lead to a doctor’s stoppage and a third-round TKO win for Macfarlane.
With talks of a rematch between Macfarlane and Arteaga being discussed, the path to a title shot for Williams could be a bit foggy. Still, with a win, Williams believes she should be in that conversation if she is able to hand Velasquez her first loss on Friday night.
“I definitely think that should be on the books,” Williams said. “It all depends on what Bellator is going to do with Veta and Ilima-Lei, but I definitely believe this should be a contender fight. I never know what Bellator is going to do but I feel like I would deserve that chance to fight for the belt.”